Yesterday at work I needed to buy my lunch from the small canteen that is onsite and available for staff. I’m usually served by the grumpy owner but on this day a young kid about 13 or 14 took my order. He was nervous and gangly with a squeaky voice. Squeaky, but also soft and shy. He walked into the back room to make my sandwich and straight away I could hear the grumpy woman start belittling him. Scolding him for not using the ‘correct’ butter knife, slapping his hand away when he reached for the ‘wrong’ loaf of bread, repeating instructions aggressively and unnecessarily and actually asking “Are you stupid?!”. I couldn’t believe this woman was talking to an employee like this! It wasn’t until I heard him say quietly, “Sorry, Mum” that it became clear he was actually her son.
As I stood there watching and listening I found myself becoming quite upset. This might sound overly dramatic (yeah, I may be extra emotional lately) but tears actually formed in my eyes as I stood witness to this young kid having his self esteem crushed. Not only crushed but crushed so openly and publicly. I walked away so sad and upset with a yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just couldn’t understand why someone would choose to parent that way. Don’t get me wrong, I sure she loves her son very much but I do not think that sort of criticism towards a child is helpful nor healthy.
Since then, I have been thinking a lot about our parenting style and what it even is that we’re practicing. I have no idea. I suppose if someone asked, I would say we’re gentle parents? I don’t even know what that means. We’re not perfect that’s for sure. We have moments of frustration like every parent. Luckily there’s two of us so when one gets fed up, the other can tag in and take over. I think kids are so often overlooked and dismissed and that feels so wrong to me. I can say with absolute confidence that I’ll never call Oscar stupid. I want him to move at his own pace and allow him to make mistakes as he learns things. I want him to trust us completely, I want him to practice empathy.
I have been interested in the Danish style of parenting for a while now but haven’t looked very in depth. After yesterday however, I’ve decided to read the book ‘The Danish Way’ as so many things about it resonate with me. Candice and I have our own unique way of parenting and I think it’s working well, I mean Oscar is such a bright, happy kid. I just want to further my knowledge as there might be some great tips to help us get through the next few years.
It doesn’t take much to be gentle. Be patient, be respectful. If you wouldn’t speak to another adult like that why would it be acceptable to talk to a child that way. Their minds are developing so rapidly and they are learning all the time. Make sure they are learning kind habits and not destructive ones. You never know just how far that kindness will go towards their future as an adult.